tv Tavis Smiley WHUT September 10, 2012 7:00pm-7:30pm EDT
smiley. tonight, a conversation with oscar-winners jeremy irons, out today with a new project called "the words." in addition to that, he has completed more programming. we are glad you could join us for our conversation with actor jeremy irons, coming up right now. >> there is a saying that dr. king had that said there is right thing. i just try to live my life every day by doing the right thing. we know that we are only halfway to completely eliminate hunger, and we have work to do. walmart committed $2 billion to fighting hunger in the u.s. as we work together, we can stamp hunger out. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you.
tavis: please welcome jeremy irons to the program, the oscar- winning actor which is out with a new program. it is called "the words," where one author plagiarizes another author's work. here is a scene from "the words." >> i read your book. i like it, very, very much. >> thank you. i really do appreciate it. >> i know, i know. artists always feel uncomfortable talking about
their work. if there is just one thing you can do for me? >> sure. >> i am wondering if you can autograph a copy of my book. i do have a story, a very good story. i know you get this all of the time, but i think this story. if i were to tell you this story, and you wrote it, maybe then you could give me a little credit. >> well, that would be fair, would it not? good day. >> it is about a man who wrote a book and the piss and kid who found it. are you still here? tavis: so we are aging, and you
decide to play even older. >> i know, i know. that is the only reason i came today, because i wanted to remind people that i am not that old. tavis: talking about how to explain this without giving away the story, and that clip give us a ttle bit of it away anyway. >> it does, it does, but it sets a formula, and the story is how you deal with the program, and i think really, it is a film about living or lying in bed that you have made. tavis: mm-hmm. >> which, in a way, we all have to do in life, and the man has to do that, and the boy has to do that, and it is also about where you get ideas from. tavis: did you like playing the old man? >> i like playing characters
with secrets and enigmas, and i liked very much playing with bradley cooper. he is a wonderful actor. it makes it very easy. these two young filmmakers who i did not know, and to have two directors was very interesting. it is very strong and a very, very original script. i read one or two scripps, and to find something, this is a really original, clever idea. it is a movie for people to think. it was not hard to accept. tavis: you put it out there, so i am curious now. what is it about playing these characters with secrets that so entices you print >> i sort of think it is like advent calendars. do you have an advent calendar? rasmus, and every day, you are
able to open one more as you get towards christmas, and you see more and more about what is inside the house, and i remember being, as a kid, excited about that, and i always thought of my character like that. i like to have my secrets and slowly let those secrets out to the audience, sometimes never let them out, but let them see a little bit more of the character. for me, i do not know about you, but the great thing when you are making new friendship is the discovery of that person. it is that that is wonderful. i tried to let the audience do that with the character. you keep some things and slowly led them out, so there is that sort of fascinating area in a character. enigmas and secrets, for me, are very useful. >> beyond that, has the process
you have been using for choosing the roles that you want to play, has that process changed as you have gotten older? we have talked about getting older. but as you age, as i tell my grandmother all of the time, as you become more chronologically gifted, has that process change? >> i choose with my gut. i read a story, and i think, yes, i love that story. i would love to go and see that character. now, two years ago, that might have been different. two years hence, it might be different. if you read a story or a character that is a little bit similar, then you would not be attracted by it. it is all dependent on the work you have been doing recently. it is like you are looking at a
table of food, and you are thinking, i think i want an apple. for that moment, you want an apple. the next day, it might be, "i want a little bit of that pam," or a little bit of that beef steak or whatever, -- i want a little bit of that ham. this is what i try to do in my work and my life, and then you read the script, and you think, i am not really sure why. of course, who the director is makes a difference. how well it is written makes a difference. whether they are going to pay you are not makes a difference. tavis: a simple phrase, but a wonderful phrase. the phrase "listen to." you listen to yourself. your immense talent as an actor, one of the things i most enjoyed about you is your sound. that voice of yours.
when i am not doing this, i have a publishing company, and we publish books, and oftentimes, these days, books on tape, and even though i do a radio show and a tv show, i can be in a restaurant, as happens all of the time, and somebody can be sitting two tables over, and they say, "that is tavis smiley." i do not know what it is that is distinctive about my voice, but i love your speaking voice. you could read a book on tape all day long, and i raise that seriously to ask, how much credit would you give to your voice in your success? >> it is not something i think about. i think it is very dangerous to think about anything. it is just part of the instrument that i used for
emotion. i remember years ago, when i was in my late twenties, and i was having a cup of coffee with a great british actor, john hurt, a bit older than me, and we were talking about how many new actors were springing up, and you begin to see the 19-year- olds and 20-year-olds a aspirin is up, and i said, "yes, i have ," and he said, "it is a problem, is it not?" when i see someone, i'd say, "you know, you have a wonderful voice." as soon as you say that, the
career is over. i do not take any notice of it. obviously, i feed my voice with cigarettes every day. but apart from that. tavis: to your conversation with john hurt, i wonder if you will be honest and tell me whether or not at any point in your career, as you have aged and been in the career longer, ever have felt threatened? you mentioned bradley cooper. your praise of him. have you ever felt threatened at any particular point in your career for the actors coming after you, chasing your roles? >> no. i still sort of feel 27, and my wife would say that i still behave as if i were 27, but you see a role, and you say, "i
should go after that. i really want to play that." and then they say, "so and so will be doing it," and you say, "no, he is too young for it," and they say, "no, he is the right age for it." you grow out of roles, so all that is left for me is to play very old roles, as you saw, but, no, i do not feel threatened. there are actors of my sort of a generation who can play my sort of roles, and sometimes take roles that i would like, but that is the nature of the game. i probably take roles that they would like. tavis: "the words," again, without giving too much of it away, it is about an individual, played by bradley cooper, whose wife gives him a new attache case, and in the attache case --
>> gives him an old attache case. tavis: yes, and to him, it is new, but inside, there is a manuscript that he takes and passes off as his own and obviously has to confront the person who actually wrote it. >> well, he did not know who wrote it. it was written on very old paper, and maybe the guy is dead. unfortunately, the guy is not dead. tavis: that is the scene we saw. >> that happened to hemingway. tavis: i read that. his wife -- and >> lost a manuscript on the train, and it was never found. tavis: and hemingway for many years would not right. he was shot down by it. this was an original script. a screenplay for this particular project, but that is a fascinating parallel. i suspect that can happen to you.
something intangible, i guess that could emotionally shut you down. >> it does. it happens to the character in the movie. he never writes again. it must be terrible, that feeling, you up with some much and do something, and it is now gone. it is gone. and you hear about people rewriting when that happens. there was a great british travel writer who traveled down the danube before the second world war and wrote diaries, and those diaries were lost or stolen at the end of the journey, and then he rewerote it -- rewrote it all, so it can be done, but it must be a terrible feeling. tavis: i am always fascinated by
the backstory. how did you know that this was your vocation, your follow -- you're calling? >> i never did, really. i was educated in a private school in england amongst people who were being trained for banking or the army or business, and as i came towards the end of my education, i thought, "i must find something, or i will never meet any of these people ever again." tavis: at least once a week i have that thought. >> at that time, i was in the school and traveling with my guitar and singing around the place, and we used to call it something, and in my unreal mind, i thought i would like to be in the circus, in the traveling fanfares, as we call them. what do you call them? merry-go-rounds, and they have
big wheels, and i looked at the accommodation, and it is small, i am not sure i can do that. it was too middle class. i need the possibility of us having a mortgage and a house and marriage and a family, so then i looked at the theater, and i got a job in canterbury with what they called an acting stage manager, and that meant you walked on in the evening and did little parts. and i did that for a few months, about six months, and i really liked it. i liked working at nights when most of the world is asleep or enjoying itself. i loved the smell is. i love the attitude of the people. so i decided to trade to be an
actor. why did not train to be a stage manager, i do not know. i had no real desire to act, and i still do not. i like being part of a group that tells stories, whether it be in the theater or cinema, and i like creating imaginary worlds, rather as children do, but i never had a burning desire to act, but it just sort of suited me. once again, following your gut and listening to your gut. what do you need? i get bored very easily, so i like it changing, being involved for months, and then be in with a different group of people. i love being able to stop. this is one of the benefits we have in our profession. i say, "i am going to stop in six months and go and do something else," and they say,
"you are so lucky. i just could not do that." and we are paid for what we enjoy doing it. some of it is very hd work. there are things, qualities you have to to do with acting. you have to be able to deal with a lot of things the business grows at you, and if you can deal with that, it is a wonderful profession. have to be an actor which have nothingtavis: you saa moment ago that raises for me a deeply philosophical question. and maybe i can learn something from you. >> i am sure. tavis: there were some his names i will not call on national television, because we can debate this, but there are a number of athletes to come to mind who are regifted and really
talented, and those of us who are sports fans, we yell and scream at them all of the time, because we know they are good. they about the body of adonis. they work -- really will not apply themselves. those of us who are laker fans do not want to talk about it. they just do not step up consistently in the game. so it seems to me when i watch these guys play that they are good at what they do, and they do not have a burning desire to do it. you admit you do not have a burning desire to act, but you are an academy award winner and a tony award winner, and you are still good at what you do. how do you put out that level of excellence without having a burning desire to even do it every day? does that make sense? >> it does, it does. i think you have to have many boxes to be an actor or to be a sportsman, and you may be given
the body, the physique, but have you got the temperament? i have a guy who will train every morning and a guy who will not party the night before. i have a guy who is consistent and can be relied upon. are you a team player? those things do not come as give just because you have that the seat. -- the physique. you have to know how to choose the roles and be easy to work with so people enjoy working with you. you have to have a good head for choice, because every performance is a group of tiny little choices, and that build up a performance. you have to deal with not miss in rolls, when not being asked to work, doing good work and
then being castigated by the critics for it. you have to have a skin that can deal with all of that. and i fortunately seem to have the makeup that allows me to deal with the business. not as everybody. i find one side of the industry very difficult. you will not see me, i go to my own premiers, because i have to help my film, but i do not enjoy that whole side. i do not enjoy a celebrity. i love getting a seat in a restaurant. i'd love it when people say high when i do not know them. that is fine, but apart from that -- tavis: right. >> i like it where it is like living in the world is like living in your own village, but, of course, everyone in the village knows about your
business, so you have to be careful. tavis: yes. >> but it is a business that has treated me very kindly. the other great thing about it, because you're constantly playing other characters and exploring yourself because you have to find those other characters in yourself, you sort of have been other people, so you can empathize with many different sorts of people. and as you get older, you not only get more interesting, but you get wiser as a person. that is what i am hoping. my wife will say we are waiting. tavis: you mentioned traveling around when you were younger, play your guitar. please tell me what i read it is
not true. >> what is that? tavis: that the name of your band, there were four guys in the band, the fort pillars of wisdom -- the four pillars of wisdom? was that the name of the band? >> yes. there was the seven pillars of wisdom that was written about, and there were only four of us. i ~. i played the drums, rather worse than windows star, if you can imagine. -- rather worse than ringo starr. i do more irish now. i live in ireland, so i played fiddle, and i still played guitar, and i have drums and played various little things.
tavis: let me close on this. ireland is a place of much political mayhem. >> and economic mayhem. tavis: and we have some of that here now, political mayhem and economic mayhem, and this week has been all about the democratic convention this week and last week the republican convention, and we have been talking about that every night except for tonight with jeremy irons. >> i am very glad i am not a politician, because i think it is one step away from the gates of hell being a politician. a nightmare, a nightmare, but i do have views about where we have gone terribly wrong, and i think we are just at the start of a huge economic revolution, which i think has really not get this country yet, but which we are going through in europe, where we realized unrestrained capitalism is a highway to nowhere, and it does not protect
the population as it should, and we have to completely start to reevaluate how we use capitalism as an instrument for feeding and housing our population. tavis: there are an increasing amount of people in this country who feel the same way. to even raise that conversation gets you labeled un-american in some circles, so i can imagine. >> i am not american, so i can be un-american. tavis: and you can come on this program anytime you want. jeremy irons, one of the stars of the new program "the words," and that is our show for tonight. you can dial in to get our new app from the app store. thank you for watching, and as always, keep the faith. >> the life you wanted.
he knew what he had to do to get it. >> id is no different from anything you have ever done before. >> i have to tell you something. >> it is not over yet. this is where it really gets interesting. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at pbs.org. tavis: hi, i'm tavis smiley. join me next time for a actor, keanu reeves, about filmmaking. that is next time, we will see you then. >> there is a saying that dr. king had that said there is always the right time to do the right thing. i just try to live my life every day by doing the right thing. we know that we are only halfway to completely eliminate hunger, and we have work to do. walmart committed $2 billion to